Since their introduction 15 years ago, cochlear implants have enabled thousands of deaf people to recognize sounds and understand speech.
Hearing aids benefit many who have hearing loss, but for thousands of others the world continues to be silent. Cochlear implant surgery is a promising alternative. Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sound, cochlear implants directly stimulate the auditory nerves and interpret sounds that hearing aids cannot detect. Cochlear implants improve hearing ability for both adults and children who have a profound hearing loss.
Patients undergo surgery in which electrodes are attached to the cochlea, the part of the inner ear that distinguishes sound and transmits it to the brain. The cochlear implant procedure can be performed in either an inpatient or outpatient setting; it generally takes three to five weeks for the incision to heal.
After surgery, an audiologist fits the patient with two small devices, a microphone and processor, that are worn behind the ear. The microphone sends sounds to the processor, which transmits them to the implant. The implant transmits electrical impulses to the cochlea, which in turn sends the signals to the brain. All of this takes only microseconds.
Adults and children 18 months or older who have severe to profound hearing loss are eligible. Studies have shown that children especially can benefit from the implant, because it lessens the need for speech and language therapy and special education. In many cases, health insurance covers most or all of the cost of the procedure.
For more information, call 401-444-5485. Learn more about pediatric cochlear implants.